Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars – This easy gluten-free pumpkin bars recipe is laced with warm spices & topped with a light whipped brown sugar cream cheese frosting that’s the perfect finish.
I’ve been working on this recipe since JULY, and I’m so thrilled that it’s finally time to share it!
Gluten-free pumpkin recipes, like streuseled gluten-free pumpkin bread, or some fluffy pumpkin cupcakes are such a lovely way to usher in the fall baking season, and there’s just nothing quite like a batch of pumpkin bars to get you feeling cozy.
Our gluten-free pumpkin bars recipe is beautifully spiced and easy to make. It’s one of those easy desserts that works well at a family Thanksgiving celebration or as a casual treat for friends in the fall & all pumpkin season long. We love the gorgeous fall flavor and light whipped cream cheese frosting combination so much!
Best of all, you only need one bowl for the batter and one bowl for the frosting. They practically make themselves!
Here’s what you need to make our easy gluten-free pumpkin bars…
Here’s What You Need To Make Pumpkin Bars:
- Canned Pumpkin Puree. Unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) gives these bars all the delicious pumpkin flavor & soft, moist texture we’re looking for.
- Butter & Oil. Then, I use a mixture of butter and oil. The butter improves the flavor, while the vegetable oil adds more moisture. (Oil is 100% fat, while butter is 80% fat, and the extra percentage really adds to the texture here!)
- Brown & White Sugar. Then, a blend of brown sugar and cane sugar adds moisture and the subtle molasses note from the brown sugar really blends well with the spices–yum!
- Sour Cream. This is one secret ingredient that gives our gluten-free pumpkin bar recipe its incredible taste and texture. Sour cream adds a tiny touch of acidity and brightness, which balances the spices and keeps the pumpkin bars moist and soft. Don’t skip it!
- Eggs & Vanilla. Rounding out the wet ingredients is 4 large eggs and plenty of vanilla extract. They add to the soft texture and the kiss of vanilla is heavenly!
- Gluten-Free Flour. I like to keep things simple with a gluten-free measure-for-measure flour. Our favorite is this gluten-free flour blend from King Arthur. If you use another brand, be sure it contains xanthan gum, or your bars won’t hold together properly.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda. These two neutralize the acidity, and give our gluten-free pumpkin bars their light, lovely texture.
- Warm Spices & Salt. You *could* use pumpkin spice or pumpkin pie spice instead of our spice blend, but if you can, I highly recommend using the spices we’ve listed below! They’ll add warmth and depth that really set them apart.
- Our Whipped Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. Less sweet & lighter in texture than traditional cream cheese frosting, we love how fluffy and airy this whipped cream cheese frosting is! It’s a lovely balance to the sweet, spiced pumpkin bars.
Pan Check! Make Sure You’re Using The Right Pan!
Some pumpkin bar recipes call for a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan. I’ve found that many home bakers don’t have this kind of pan, so our recipe is specifically for a cookie sheet (sometimes called a half sheet in bakeries). Cookie sheets are slightly larger than jelly roll pans at 13″x18″. If you only have a jelly roll pan, you can use that instead, you’ll just need to add a few minutes to the bake time, and your bars will be slightly thicker. As always, we recommend light-colored baking sheets for even browning.
How To Make Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars, Step By Step:
- Preheat The Oven & Prep Your Pan. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet (half sheet pan) with parchment paper or greasing with nonstick spray or a brush of oil.
- Combine Oil, Butter, Sugars & Pumpkin. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, melted butter, brown sugar, sugar, and pumpkin puree. Whisk until smooth and uniform.
- Mix In The Sour Cream & Vanilla. Next, add the sour cream and vanilla and stir to combine.
- Add Eggs One At A Time. Working just one egg at a time, whisk in each egg completely before adding the next, until all 4 eggs are fully incorporated.
- Mix In The Dry Ingredients. Add gluten-free flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and cloves to the pumpkin mixture. Stir until just combined (no floury patches should be visible).
- Transfer The Batter To The Pan. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the batter out evenly. (You want the batter as even as possible so the cake bakes up evenly.)
- Bake & Cool. Place the pumpkin bars in the oven and bake 18-22 minutes, or until the cake looks set, and if you lightly press on the top, no large indents remain. (The bars should spring back slowly when pressed.) Set the pan aside on a cooling rack to cool completely before adding the frosting. Do not add frosting to warm pumpkin bars or the frosting will melt.
- Start The Frosting. When the pumpkin bars are cool, mix up the frosting. Place the cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer for 3-4 minutes, or until the sugar is fully dissolved (there shouldn’t be any grit if you rub it between your fingers). Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and beat 1 minute. Add another 1/2 cup cream and beat 1 minute, add the remaining 1/2 cup of cream and whip 2-3 minutes, until it’s light, fluffy, and you can see the path of your beaters. (It’ll be like thick whipped cream.)
- Frost & Chill The Pumpkin Bars. Spread the frosting over the cooled pumpkin bars and chill 30-60 minutes before slicing. Store leftover pumpkin bars in the refrigerator 3-4 days. Happy baking!
FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The BEst Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars:
Prefer A Classic Cream Cheese Frosting? No worries. Try this cinnamon cream cheese frosting from my pumpkin cupcakes!
Can I Make These Dairy-Free Or Vegan? Some of my recipes lend themselves well for easy adaptation to dairy-free or vegan diets, but these pumpkin bars don’t work well with dairy-free substitutions in place. I’m sorry!
Can I Use Almond Flour or Coconut Flour Instead? No. These grain-free substitutions won’t work well here without adjusting the amounts of other ingredients, as paleo and grain-free flours don’t absorb liquid the same way as 1:1 gluten-free flour blends, like King Arthur Measure For Measure or Bob’s Red Mill 1:1.
Are Pumpkin Bars And Pumpkin Sheet Cake The Same Thing? Close, but not quite. Pumpkin bars are a bit more dense in texture than cake.
Can You Freeze Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bars? Yes. Freezing in the pan usually warps the pan, so if you’d like to freeze leftover pumpkin bars, I recommend placing individual slices on a plate until frozen, then transferring them to an airtight bag or freezer container.
What’s The Best Way To Store Pumpkin Bars? Since they have cream cheese & dairy in the frosting, you won’t want to let them sit on the counter. Cover these gluten-free pumpkin squares with a lid, plastic wrap, or foil (or store in a single layer in an airtight container) and store in the fridge up to 3-4 days.